Honor the Emperor

Our women at church have been walking through Jen Wilkin’s study of 1 Peter and this past week we studied 1 Peter 2:13-25. At the beginning of our time I shared with our women about how bad I am at submitting to authority and how terrified I was to even talk about the topic of honoring the emperor in light of how politically divided our nation was.

Yet, Peter’s words are clear.

“Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the Emperor. Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust… For this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” 2 Peter 2

Wilkin defines submission as “To willingly set aside your own desires or needs to honor the desires or needs of another.” She states that it is NOT powerlessness, weakness, or being blind or indiscriminant. Rather submission looks more like “meekness which is strength under control” and that like Christ, it’s an example entrusting ourselves to the One who judges justly.

When I read last week’s study I was heavily convicted about my attitude toward authority figures that I disagree with. You see, I find the balance of advocating for justice while submitting to unjust authority difficult. Yet Peter doesn’t give us an out when our master is unjust. It doesn’t matter if you lean left or right, or find yourself somewhere in the middle. Submission isn’t contingent on our authority’s disposition or our own political position, rather it’s about our posture. And Peter shows us that our posture should be one that mirrors Christ’s, and as believers, we should find this freeing!

“Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.” 2 Peter 2:16

So what does that mean for those of us with fiery personalities and a bit of justice seeking in our souls? Well I say we look at Peter’s life for some encouragement. What I love about Peter is that He is the guy who, like many of us, was passionate and outspoken with a desire to right all the wrongs.

When the other disciples were afraid of Jesus walking on the water, Peter asked Jesus if he could join him. And yet when he saw the wind and took his eyes off of Jesus, his passion waned and vision faltered as he started to sink. Jesus rebuked him, “Oh you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

But Peter’s faith wasn’t the only thing that didn’t quite measure up to his passion. His words also failed him when he passionately promised the Christ that he would never deny Him. Yet by the next day he would find out that again, his words were bigger than his faith.

And remember when Jesus was unfairly arrested, who was the guy ready to fight? Peter drew his sword and chopped off a guy’s ear because he knew that the Messiah had done no wrong. Again Jesus rebuked him, healed the injured soldier, and went willingly with the authorities.

The irony that feisty Peter is the one telling us to submit to authority is something that should give each of us hope. Over the years, the work of the Spirit had its way with Peter and that young guy whose mouth usually got ahead of him has matured into a man who is calling us to be holy as Christ is holy and to honor the emperor, as Christ gave himself up for us.

For those of you with fiery spirits and issues with authority, may you find that your faith be bigger than your words, and your posture be one that matches Christ’s.

And Father, please let it be of me as well.

Have you ever had an unjust authority in your life? If so, how did you respond and in light of this passage, what would you change?

Brittany is a wife, mother and advocate for adoption. A graduate from Cedarville University, she received her MA in Intercultural Studies from SEBTS in 2011 and her MA in Teaching from NC State in 2012. She writes on faith and family over at www.thesassysalmon.com and when she’s not writing, she enjoys running, eating cheesefries, and spending time with family and friends.
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